This link to an entry on the Bloggess was left in my comments section by one of my favorite bloggers who maintains two amazing blogs. Out of The Mire and The Sexpeditions of Lady J. It is a powerful piece that everybody struggling with depression and anxiety, or who cares about someone who does, should read.
The peace and quiet in my lower GI was violently shattered this afternoon. I was in the last little town I make calls in, which is located about 30 minutes from home. When the cramps hit it was clear that I was going to have a problem so I bailed on the rest of my accounts and struck for home. I got about ten minutes down the road when the cramping abruptly subsided. I have experienced these warning shots many times before, and I generally have an hour maybe two of reprieve before it all returns. Sometimes I get lucky and it stays away for longer, and sometimes it only passes for a few moments. I have been feeling guilt lately about my work being affected by my health so I decided to roll the dice. I turned around and drove back the way I had come. I was leaving my second of three stops when the cramping returned. I again headed for home. Again the cramping subsided at nearly the same spot as last time, but once they start coming regularly the frequency ramps up quick so I didn’t tempt fate again. A couple minutes from home they came back a third time and much worse than the first two times. I was actually kind of happy that they hit when they did as I was able to run inside and be done with it for now.
While I sitting on the can with my insides being turned out I began to think about the physical pain that comes with anxiety and depression. I imagine when most folks who aren’t in the know hear the word pain in the same sentence with depression and anxiety they think of mental anguish. In my own experience they would be half right. Maybe less than half right. My truth has been that physical pain, usual in the form of stomach upset but not always, has been the precursor to the onset of depression as well as a symptom of ongoing depression and anxiety.
As a child I suffered from what everybody I talked too referred to as a nervous stomach. I have already touched on the pure terror that is caused by the slightest inkling that I may vomit, and I have touched on the other problems I have had with my stomach for longer than I can really remember. In a nutshell it boils down to feelings of nausea, stomach cramping and diarrhea whenever I was put under any form of physical stress. The problem peaked during the spring of my junior year of high school and then for the next six years where largely a non issue.
In one of my very first posts I wrote about the first days of depression and anxiety becoming a dominant force in my life. I wrote about being a flight instructor and having a very frustrating evening with a student that ended with intense feelings of nausea while we were flying. These feelings of being sick began to interrupt my ability to function normally and I did what any other person would do. I went to the doctor. Of course the doctors could find nothing at all wrong with me. As the physical problem got worse the depression and anxiety really began to take hold, but the doctors had started with me when it was all physical and they stayed the course looking for anything that may be wrong. I underwent a multitude of tests, but I clearly remember the barium swallow. For those who have never experienced this consider yourselves lucky. Those that have know it is no fun, and I would ask that you think back on the experience and try to imagine having to do it while feeling as if you were going to vomit at any moment. They give you this chalky flavored drink that is thick like a milkshake and you have to drink it while they take x-rays of it traveling through your digestive system. When I did it there was a technician handing me cups of the drink telling me to drink it continually while the doctor was in another part of the room presumably looking at the images. I recall getting through the first cup or two of the drink before my stomach began its revolt and I refused the next cup. I remember the technician being kind of a dick and trying to force me to keep drinking. I remember getting into a heated argument with him about the potential consequences of putting any more fluid in my mouth, and asking if he was ready to get a mop and clean up the mess. I didn’t drink anymore and at some point the doctor ended the argument by saying he had what he needed.
Eventually everybody figured out what was happening and I started with antidepressants and therapy. These treatments reigned in the stomach problems to a degree, but as previously mentioned I still deal with it on a nearly daily basis with the occasional period of calm.
Besides stomach upset I deal with a steady supply of headaches. My Dad suffers from Migraines. I have seen what they can do to him, and I will count myself as lucky to have never experienced anything like that, but nonetheless these nagging frequent low grade headaches can sap a person’s will given enough time. Of course they aren’t always simple low grade headaches at times they can be very painful. I truly feel for those that have been cursed with true migraines.
The random aches and pains would be too long to list, and I wouldn’t be able to remember them all anyway. I just count these as generic pain that tends to subside when I am feeling better, but when things turn down they reappear randomly through the day. I would imagine most who suffer from depression and anxiety have stories of physical pain to share. Feel free to comment and share your story.
What an odd couple weeks it has been. Today marks three weeks off Klonopin. I have to admit that generally I have been feeling well, but there have been a few notable instances where things have been somewhat uncomfortable. I haven’t posted for two weeks for a couple reasons. The first is just time. I have such limited time to myself that I have to decide what I am going to do with it, and frankly I have chosen other things of late. The second is just me being cautious. I really feel like in a way I am learning to live again, and sometimes it feels like it might be better if I don’t look into things to deeply when I am feeling reasonably well. It is over thinking and over analyzing that works against me after all. To stay with the theme of my blog title I feel as if I have been living several steps back from the edge on secure ground. Walking back to the lip just so I can look in the hole seems unnecessarily dangerous. I did sit down and begin a post about a week back, but it is still in draft form collecting dust.
As said I have mostly felt pretty good, but that doesn’t mean it’s been all sunshine and roses. Before when I was not well I hated going out. I didn’t want to be away from home and deal with anxiety and panic, and I certainly didn’t want to be away from home and deal with being sick. Over the years with the Klonopin I was very functional. I had my days, but for the most part I was pretty normal. Losing the Klonopin has been akin to a trapeze artist performing without a net. I am now operating with nothing between me and anxiety/panic except my own rational faculties. I have really at times had to force myself into doing things in hopes that cumulative positive experiences will help my confidence. The other measure with which I gauge myself is my stomach. For years the most useful barometer of my stress level, my stomach has been pretty quiet over the past couple weeks. In fact I think it has been over two weeks now since I last took anything to seize up my bowels which is always nice.
The only trouble I have faced has been the unpredictable occurrence of the Flight side of my Fight or Flight reflex being activated. There is nothing to be scared of, but several times over the past couple weeks I have felt the sudden urge to flee. To where I haven’t the foggiest idea, but I can feel the sensation of being turned inside out and the building urge to run. I have fought it back and won each time, but last night I woke up at about midnight feeling the urge to flee. That has never ever happened to me and I have found the experience unsettling. I have no idea why this has been happening. I hope it passes, but I will admit to a fear that it may be the beginning of something bad. It scares me that even putting those words on paper will make it a self fulfilling prophecy. I want to ignore it and hope it will go away. The bright side of it has been that it has not really controlled me. Even last night I was unnerved, but I changed my position in bed and took some deep breaths to try and reset myself. I was back to sleep before I knew it. I didn’t sleep well after, but I had gone to bed a little angry with the Mrs. so I cant really tell why I had trouble sleeping.
That brings me to another point. I may have spoken to this before, as the truth is I cant always remember what I actually put on the page and what is just passing through my mind. Since the Klonopin has been out of my system I have been more emotional. I feel things deeper again. I laugh harder and I feel sadness on a deeper level. I have lost track of the times my eyes have watered due to something I have read or seen. Since Christmas I have read a couple historical accounts of The Second World War and Vietnam. The WWII book dealt with American POWs in Southeast Asia. I was shocked and appalled at the cruelty and tortuous experiences these men endured, but I was moved to the point of tears not by the horror they witnessed but by their experiences when they found freedom. I cried with them when the Rising Sun was taken down over one of their camps and replaced by an American Flag the men had hand sewn from cloth scraps they had gathered over years in captivity and kept hidden from the guards. I don’t know why I am writing about this now except I find it odd that I can read about death and disease with shock but not sadness, while the emotions of their freedom overwhelmed me. Strange.
Regardless I hope to continue posting here and reading the blogs of others. I enjoy the community of folks who may understand the ramblings I put here. In another week and a half I will submit the paperwork the Coast Guard requires to revaluate my application package. Hopefully things will stay stable that long.
It was a week ago tonight that I took the last Klonopin that I will hopefully ever have. With the previous reductions in dosage I didn’t feel any effects right away. I would drop the dose Friday night and start feeling a little off by Monday. Those feelings would generally last into Wednesday, but I was better by Wednesday afternoon and ready for the next drop Friday. This time I got hammered the very next day. I am sure that a lot of it was in my head, but Saturday was the worst day I have experienced in the last four or five years. It was terrible and included an unfortunate little display in front of my wife and child. The aftershocks of the day carried over into Sunday, and I was still pretty edgy on Monday. Tuesday was back to work after the long holiday week and after a rough start I was feeling pretty good in the afternoon. Things have improved at a fairly steady rate since.
I saw the shrink for a follow up appointment on Wednesday and he seemed pleased with the progress. He told me that if you consider the body and just a physical vessel the withdrawal symptoms from the Klonopin shold be gone in 5 -7 days. Apparently this is what they have observed in laboratory animals. Of course I have a brain that is guilty of over thinking makes the situation much more complex and he said I could be feeling a little off for the next six months. Knowing that there is actually no physical effect from the drug left has been helpful to me in coping with what has been going on. I at least know that I am more in control of what is happening in my brain than it may feel like.
Through the past week I have been struggling some in two broad areas; sleep, and stomach upset. I wrote a couple weeks back about a horrid night of insomnia. I don’t kick an experience like that easily and predictably it has stuck with me. I haven’t been through anything as bad, but in the nights following I would take two are three hours to get to sleep each night. That carried into this first part of the week when about Wednesday night it only took about an hour. Last night I only recall tossing around a little and looking at the clock one time. I may have been to sleep in as little as twenty or thirty minutes, but staying asleep was an altogether different story. I was up every couple hours through the night. The other sleep oddity that popped up earlier in the week was the appearance of regular and strange dreams. On Klonopin dreams would occasionally happen, but they were rare and it was even rarer for me to remember any detail. Over the last few days I have had vivid and strange dreams every night. I still don’t recall a lot of detail as I write this, but I do remember having clear memories of some of the more bizarre dreams first thing in the morning. This isn’t really a problem, but some of the stranger scenes can be a little unsettling when you are already questioning how your brain is working. It will take some getting used to if it continues.
The stomach upset is at least as big a problem as the sleeping. When I was a teenager everybody quaintly referred to my nearly constant mild stomach upset as a “nervous stomach”. Sure. Apparently as an adult life makes me nervous as I have a stomach ache in the form of gas, cramping and diarrhea nearly everyday. The closest thing to a cure I have found is the SSRI type anti-depressant. Of course anybody who has been following this blog knows how much I hate those pills and why. Since the Klonopin has been gone my body has doubled down on the quantity and intensity of these stomach problems. When it really gets rolling I may have significant stomach pain eight or ten times throughout the day leading to five urgent trips to the bathroom. That number would be higher if I worked in a place that actually provided regular access to a restroom. There is nothing like driving down the road trying not to shit your pants multiple times a day. I discovered a product called Imodium AD Multi Symptom that treats both diarrhea and gas. I have taken it twice in the past two weeks, and it seems to bottle me up with little or no cramping for a couple days (no regular bathroom visits either) before the symptoms start to return. I don’t know what the long term effect would be of taking this shit (or anti shit?) a couple times a week would be, but I have a feeling I am going to find out.
So that is where it stands at this point. I don’t feel a lot different than I did on the medication other than the problems described above, and none of those problems are new. This Withdrawal has been unpleasant, but the serotonin withdrawal syndrome I experienced the last time I stopped the lexapro may have been worse overall. As far as the Coast Guard is concerned when I have been off the klonopin “four to six weeks” I provide them a letter from the doctor and records from the pharmacist, and they will reevaluate my application. Lets hope for a good month.